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B-cell discovery suggests why women suffer more autoimmune disease
Date:8/4/2011

the researchers named the cells Age-associated B Cells or ABCs. The researchers also found higher levels of ABCs in young and old mice that are prone to autoimmune disease. They could detect the elevated ABC levels before any disease developed and even before autoantibodies appeared, suggesting a role for these cells in early detection of disease.

The researchers also found an almost identical type of cell in the blood many human autoimmune patients. In women with rheumatoid arthritis the presence of these cells increased with age.

ABCs in mice produce antibodies against chromatin, the combination of proteins and DNA that make up chromosomes in the cell nucleus. When they depleted the ABCs in mice, autoantibody levels fell, suggesting a potential treatment for autoimmune diseases. National Jewish Health has applied for a patent on the method of depleting the cells to treat autoimmune disease.

The researchers also found that activation of these cells requires stimulation of TLR7, a cell-surface receptor involved in innate immune responses. The gene for TLR7 is located on the X chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, men an X and a Y chromosome. Normally one copy of the X chromosome in women is silenced so that it does not produce excess protein. But the silencing is not always complete, and women commonly express elevated levels of some X-chromosome genes.

"Not only do these cells appear more frequently in females, their activation depends on a gene of which women have two copies and men only one," said Anatoly V. Rubtsov, PhD, first author and postdoctoral fellow at National Jewish Health. "This could help us understand why women suffer many autoimmune diseases more often than men."


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Contact: William Allstetter
allstetterw@njhealth.org
303-398-1002
National Jewish Health
Source:Eurekalert

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